Mark Magsayo could not have received higher praise following the most significant win of his career to date.
Of course, that comes with having a promoter whose own time in the ring is recognized as one of the greatest fighters in boxing history.
Retired former eight-division titlist Manny Pacquiao was among the first to acknowledge the performance turned in by Philippines’ Magsayo, who dethroned long-reigning WBC featherweight titlist Gary Russell Jr. via majority decision. Judge Lynne Carter (114-114) scored the action even, overruled by judges Tom Constentino (115-113) and Henry Eugene Grant (115-113) in favor of the unbeaten Filipino, who proudly fights under the MP Promotions banner.
“Congratulations, Mark Magsayo on your first world championship,” Pacquiao tweeted moments after the Showtime-televised main event Saturday evening. “Thank you for bringing honor to our country by becoming the latest Filipino world boxing champion. Welcome to the club.”
Magsayo (24-0, 16KOs) is now the fifth Filipino boxer to currently hold a major title. He accomplished the feat by ending the longest active title reign among male boxers. Russell (33-2, 18KOs)—33-year-old southpaw from Capitol Heights, Maryland and 2008 U.S. Olympian—held the belt for nearly six years and ten months, dating back to his March 2015 fourth-round knockout of Jhonny Gonzalez.
Just five successful defenses came in Russell’s reign prolonged by lengthy ring absences, including a 23-month inactive stretch heading into Saturday’s bout. Magsayo’s win changes the pecking order, with Thailand’s Thammanoon Niyomtrong (23-0, 9KOs) now the longest reigning male titlist as he has the full version of the WBA strawweight title since June 2016.
Immediately behind Niyomtrong is Jerwin Ancajas (33-1-2, 22KOs), Magsayo’s countryman who has held the IBF junior bantamweight title since September 2016. Ancajas is also promoted by MP Promotions and attempts the tenth defense of his title versus unbeaten Argentine contender Fernando Daniel Martinez as part of a February 26 Showtime tripleheader from The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
Magsayo and Ancajas are joined by four-division and current WBC bantamweight champ Nonito Donaire, three-division and current WBO bantamweight titlist John Riel Casimero and IBF strawweight beltholder Rene Mark Cuarto on the list of current Filipino major titleholders.
Pacquiao (62-8-2, 39KOs) retired from the sport following a twelve-round, unanimous decision to Yordenis Ugas last August in Las Vegas. The defeat denied his bid to regain the WBA welterweight title he lost outside the ring due to ruled inactivity. Pacquiao enjoyed four separate title reigns at welterweight, one of a record-setting eight divisional title reigns over the course of his 26-year pro career undoubtedly destined for the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Magsayo entered Saturday's bout as the mandatory challenger, earning the ranking following a come-from-behind tenth-round knockout of Julio Ceja last August. The feat took place on the undercard of Ugas-Pacquiao, marking the only time Magsayo shared a card with his legendary countryman and current promoter.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox